In the village of Nangbani, outside Bassar, we went to see this handful of preserved iron blast furnaces from 1850. It is not so much the age of the furnaces, nor is it the style of construction, that makes them interesting, it is the fact that blacksmiths are pivotal in the Togolese culture.
Only post-menopausal women were allowed to collect the raw materials from the nearby mountains. The reason for choosing post-menopausal women was that they are considered pure, as they no longer engage in sexual activities (I sincerely hope that is not true!).
Many people would come here from nearby villages to buy the iron to make into farming implements.
The process would involve a layer of firewood inside the cone, then the raw iron materials, grain wood on top of that, topped with fire. The iron ore would then be collected at some later stage from the holes at the bottom of the cone once it had melted.
Baluga is the name of the god of Iron.
Behind the palace is a courtyard surrounded by the houses of the king’s wives amongst other sacred buildings. The late king is buried in this courtyard. He chose the burial spot himself before he died. The mound has a small hole in it to allow air in so that the king’s spirit can breathe and so that he can look out and check how his kingdom is doing.
This style of burial tombs is unique to the Bassar tribe.
The second picture shows the tomb of a previous king, where a sacrifice has recently taken place. The tombs are treated like shrines.
The third picture shows the skulls of sacrificed animals hanging from the eves of a hut in the courtyard.
The fourth picture shows yet another tomb with evidence of a recent sacrifice: feathers on the top and blood on the ground.
Only the fetish priests can perform sacrifices, and there are lots of rules and customs to follow prior to sacrifices take place. As animists, the Bassar people worship the dead.
The ostrich egg on the top of the thatched roof of the palace buildings is placed there to protect the royal family against evil spirits.